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People walk nearby a life size model of a whale at the National Science Museum in Tokyo AP

Japan proposes expanding commercial whaling to fin whales

It comes five years after Japan resumed commercial whaling after withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission.

JAPAN’S FISHERIES AGENCY has proposed expanding commercial whaling along the country’s coast to fin whales, a larger species than the three currently permitted.

The proposal comes five years after Japan resumed commercial whaling within its exclusive economic zone after withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission in 2019.

It ended 30 years of what Japan called “research whaling” that had been criticised by conservationists as a cover for commercial hunts banned by the commission in 1988.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi, whose electoral district is traditionally known for whaling, said yesterday that the government supports sustainable use of whales as part of Japan’s traditional food culture and plans to promote the industry.

“Whales are an important food resource and we believe they should be sustainably utilised just like any other marine resources, based on scientific evidence,” Mr Hayashi told reporters.

“It is also important to carry on Japan’s traditional food culture.”

The Fisheries Agency said it is seeking public comments until 5 June on the proposed plan and will seek its approval at the next review meeting in mid-June.

The agency decided to propose adding fin whales to the allowable catch list after stock surveys confirmed a sufficient recovery of the fin whale population in the North Pacific.

The plan is not meant to increase whale meat supply and whalers who catch fin whales do not necessarily have to meet a quota, an agency official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue. For this year, the agency has set a combined catch quota of 379 for the three other whale species.

Last year, Japanese whalers caught 294 minke, Bryde’s and sei whales — less than 80% of the quota and fewer than the number once hunted in the Antarctic and the north-western Pacific under the research programme.

Japan’s whaling has long been a source of controversy and attacks from conservationists, but anti-whaling protests have largely subsided after Japan terminated its much-criticised Antarctic research hunts in 2019 and returned to commercial whaling limited to Japanese waters.

Whale meat consumption in Japan was an affordable source of protein during the malnourished years after the Second World War, with annual consumption peaking at 233,000 tonnes in 1962.

However, whale was quickly replaced by other meats and supply has since fallen to around 2,000 tonnes in recent years, according to Fisheries Agency statistics.

Japanese officials want to increase that to about 5,000 tons, to keep the industry afloat.

Press Association
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